Wiltshire Police are encouraging pharmacies across Wiltshire and Swindon to join a new support scheme which will provide a lifeline to victims of domestic abuse.
Ask for ANI (Action Needed Immediately) has been developed by the Home Office to allow domestic abuse sufferers to signal they need emergency help to a chemist.
During the Covid-19 period many victims of domestic abuse will have found themselves more isolated and may be finding it more difficult to access help and support.
As an essential retailer based on high streets across the country, and with specifically trained staff, pharmacies can provide a safe space.
Victims of domestic abuse will be able to use the codeword ANI in participating pharmacies to let staff know that they require an emergency police response or help contacting a helpline or specialist support service.
Currently all Boots stores in Swindon and Wiltshire are participating and we are urging independent pharmacies to sign up.
Participating pharmacies will display posters in their window and around the pharmacy to let customers know that they can approach their staff to seek help. Any information shared will be treated confidentially.
When a victim uses the codeword or asks for help, the member of staff will ask the victim to accompany them to the consultation room. They will then check whether the victim is in danger and wants the police to be called. If so, the staff member will offer the use of a phone to dial 999 or make the call on the victim's behalf.
This may be the only opportunity for a victim to contact the police and get immediate help, but in some cases the victim may not need emergency help and the staff member will assist them to contact a national domestic abuse helpline or local support service. They may also contact the police via 101.
Detective Inspector Simon Childe said: "We welcome this new tool in our constant battle to tackle domestic abuse in our county and believe this could be a potential life saver.
"As a Force, we work tirelessly to signpost victims of domestic abuse to support channels available to them and encourage them to reach out and seek support. We appreciate that this isn't always an easy thing to do and any schemes like Ask for ANI that add extra opportunities to reach out at times of need are welcome.
"However, we need the support of independent pharmacies to sign up to the voluntary scheme to ensure those safe spaces are located across the county.
"We noticed a broad rise in reports of domestic abuse across the county in 2020 and understand the lockdown has had an impact on people who feel frightened within their own home.
"To those people we say, 'you are not alone and we are always here to support'."
Angus Macpherson, Wiltshire and Swindon's Police and Crime Commissioner, said: "This is a fantastic step in supporting those suffering from domestic abuse and one that I would urge people to use.
"This scheme also hinges on pharmacies signing up and I would encourage all in Wiltshire to join in supporting victims of domestic abuse.
"Supporting victims of domestic abuse and providing a way out of abusive relationships is close to my heart and I think the domestic abuse support services in both Wiltshire and Swindon provide a fantastic service.
"To be able to add Ask for ANI to the repertoire of support available will make a huge difference and ultimately save lives.
"I'd like to remind victims of domestic abuse that the current lockdown restrictions do not mean you can't escape and seek help, Wiltshire Police and our partner services are always here to help 24/7."
If you are in an abusive relationship or are concerned someone you know is then call us on 101 or in an emergency, always call 999.
Alternatively, call Splitz in Wiltshire on 01225775276 9am to 5pm every weekday or Swindon Domestic Abuse Support Service on 01793610610 24/7 in Swindon and out of hours or weekends in Wiltshire.You are not alone.